Friday, August 13, 2010

My new wheels.

No...these were the old wheels.
Sometimes we do not choose frugality but have it thrust upon us.  Until recently I was driving a 2008 Honda CRV.  And let me tell you, that is a beautiful vehicle.   I bought it for practical reasons...and the fact that I just fell in love with all the nifty luxuries.  There was lots of room in the back to accommodate dump runs, animal crates, and building supplies.  It had all-wheel drive to handle the country back roads of the Highlands where we lived in the winter months.  It was comfortable to fit four adult passengers and all of our Pipeband Gear on our way to parades.  And it handled like a dream.  I swear I haven’t been paid to endorse this vehicle.  

My point is that when I bought the vehicle there were practical considerations aside from ‘’s pretty!’.   A few months later I unexpectedly moved from a rural area to an urban one.  The vehicle was no longer practical but I hung onto it anyway partly because I needed a vehicle and partly because I was too stupid  stubborn to admit the vehicle was now too much for me.  The vehicle cost a considerable amount to keep on the road and spent most of its time sitting parked and unused.  Eventually the extra money it cost to keep ‘the beast’ running put me into financial hardship and I fell behind in my mortgage.  I made the decision to get rid of the Honda. 

At this point I had to consider my transport options:

a)    I could use public transit.  This would have been a perfectly viable option except for the fact that I work full time night shift and there are nights that the transit system shuts down too early and starts up too late in the morning.  I don’t fancy the idea of sitting around for two hours every day after work waiting for the bus.  Especially with my critters sitting by the door crossing their legs and patiently waiting to pee.  Taxis were prohibitively expensive. 

b)    Purchase an old ‘beater’, ie something that had a few hundred thousand kms on it and was (barely) considered road worthy.  I looked around half earnestly and became distraught pretty quickly.  After having driven my dream car for two years it’s more than a little difficult to lower one’s standards enough to get excited over a ‘91 Buick.  (Hardly any Rust!  Only 400K on it!  Nevermind what that unidentified smell under the rear seat is!  Oh, the brakes stick sometimes...and you have to manually adjust the antenna to get FM stations...)

c)    Walk.  Again, maybe this would have been an option but for the fact that I live in a terrible neighbourhood and work fulltime nightshift at the other end of the city.  It’s slightly further than I am comfortable walking or biking.  Especially during the dark. 

This is when I did my research and discovered the e-bike.  An electrically assisted bicycle that has been becoming more popular in recent years.  Especially in urban centres.  The more I read about the things the more intrigued I became.  Especially when I learned that it's completely legal to drive on the roads and the trails of Ontario and you don’t need insurance, registration, or a license plate.  Long story short I bought one outright for about $50 more than what my SUV was costing me per month.

The new wheels! 

The company I chose is one called Gio.  It is a Chinese company (which I am not thrilled about) that transports these bikes to BC and distributes them from there via auction.  These bikes have become a preferred means of transport in China because they are quiet, small, and do not require the use of fossil fuels.  They are bicycles even though they look like scooters.  Under all that molded plastic is a typical bike chain, typical pedals, and typical grip brakes.  But the electric motor propels it forward somewhere between 20-30 km/hr. 

I’ve been riding my Gio-Bike for five months now.  Through rain or shine she gets me to work every day.  Sometimes I'm a little damp and have bugs in my teeth...but I'm there on time and that counts.  Every night I plug it in to recharge and I'm told that it costs about $0.08 a charge.  My favourite part of having an e-Bike is driving past gas stations and looking up at the towering advertisement of $1.03/L and realizing I don't have to buy gas for my e-Bike...ever.  I'll be honest, I've been known to grin obnoxiously at the people with their anxious expressions pumping gas into their vehicles.  I'm a jerk, what can I say.  Then again I have found that people in their cars grin obnoxiously at me from inside their warm and dry cars while I'm being rained on.  

When the winter comes, it will no longer be practical to ride a bike around the city.  At that point I'll have to look at my options again (dog sled?!?)  and figure out what I'm going to do for the winter months.  In the meantime I'm enjoying the leisurely ride and the freedom from fossil fuels and insurance companies.  I'm also enjoying the fact that while cars drive around downtown constantly looking for parking,  I can legally park anywhere a bike can.

Honestly, I do miss my SUV sometimes.  I miss the convenience and this summer in particular I miss the a/c!  I miss the luxury of being warm and dry on rainy days.  I also miss being able to shop at Big Box stores and buying in Bulk.  I can also no longer go to the hardware store and buy more than a couple pieces of lumber or other renovating supplies.  I have to plan carefully when I shop, and this too is saving me money.  I have far fewer impulse buys and I've started to carefully read all the Flyers and compare prices.   I miss my SUV until I realize how much it was costing me...and the environment.  Then I get over it, hop on my e-Bike, and drive past all the cars waiting in line at the lights.  That's the ultimate irony, I think.  Their vehicles are faster and far more powerful, but while moving around the city I get around about as quickly as they do.  At a fraction of the cost.

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